Accepting immigrants in Japan

by Yuri Kasai

From Asian countries such as the Philippines, Korea, and China, many immigrants have come to Japan. After World War II, the Japanese government accepted many Nikkeijin (日系人), who have one Japanese parent or Japanese parents under the Immigration Control Act of 1952 and taking part in the convention of international immigration. Since the 1970s, in the bubble economy, there were four categories of immigrants, according to sociologist Hiroshi Komai. Firstly, many immigrants such as Filipinos, Koreans, Taiwanese and Thais have come for entertainment work and they can get an ‘entertainer’ visa. Secondly, refugees from Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos have come to Japan for the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees between 1970s and 1980s. The third category consists of Japanese group who went to Manchuria during the World War II. The fourth category consists of businessmen in Europe and the US.

Japanese Immigration laws are more limited to European countries and the US because Japanese society has not accepted immigrants historically. After the crackdown of the bubble economy, the number of immigrants from Europe and the US dropped. However, globalization has been widespread today and immigrants have grown again while international companies come to open their brunches in Japan. The Japanese immigration system needs to be amended because we need to accept more immigrants than before.

In Japan, 24 percent of the population is over 65 years of age, and in 2055 this aged people is estimated as 40 percent of Japan’s total population. We will need more care workers and nurses. We already lack the number of care workers and nurses because these jobs are tough for long working time and heavy tasks. They have a low salary and they struggle to work as care workers and nurses. We need to foster more care workers and nurses and to give higher salary to them.

However, it is difficult for Japan government to use money for more public service because the government holds deficits financing for the pension. Therefore, Japanese government needs to invite more immigrants from Asian developing countries such as the Philippines and to foster immigrants to support our aging society. Especially, Filipino women can care well for elderly people because they have the culture to respect for elder people. Many Filipino women emigrates overseas such as in the US or the UK. They can speak English well and can adopt to an English-speaking environment.

In Japan, although Japan accepts many Filipino women with the skills of nurse or caregivers in the hospitals, Japan government mandates them to pass though each skill exam and Japanese proficiency exam. Because of it, many Filipino nurses or caregivers cannot pass through national qualifying exam and have to go back to their home country. However, they can study Japanese while communicating with patients after they can pass through their skill exam. I think that getting human resources is the urgent problem. The government needs to reconsider and deal with the aging society and the deficit finance for the pensions. Accepting immigrants is a good solution to aging society.

Komai, Hiroshi. 2000 “Immigrants in Japan. Asian And Pacific Migration Journal 9(3):311-326.